Tag Archives: Feminist Cinema

Little

She woke up like This.

Little (2019)

A woman is transformed into her younger self at a point in her life when the pressures of adulthood become too much to bear.

Starring: Regina Hall • Issa Rae • Marsai Martin

*Minor spoilers*

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Blessed image

A modern day, female-centric Big? You got me. This is a fun concept and it stars Insecure’s creator Issa Rae – what else do I need?

Sure it doesn’t have any real surprises but it does also have Regina Hill as ‘big’ Jordan Sanders running around being a complete bitch. It’s horrible obviously but also comedy gold.

When she pisses off the wrong person, Jordan finds herself cut down to size. Literally. Waking up the morning after as her pre-teen self, she is forced to bring reluctant assistant April Williams (Rae) in on the tee – that she’s half the woman she was the day before (in stature anyway).

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“One Venti cup of steaming bitch juice. STAT.”

Through a comedy of errors, Jordan finds herself back in school and April running Jordan’s high-flying company, which is at risk of going under if they can’t impress their biggest client with a new product. What japes!

Well, you can already guess how this will pan out but sometimes there is comfort in that and I did find it funny. Little is written and directed by Tina Gordon, a WOC and you can tell. While she hasn’t done masses yet, I am looking forward to seeing more from her.

Meanwhile, Issa Rae is a dream to watch on the screen, and both her and Hall are actresses I want to see way more in film and TV. Hall’s mega bitch Jordan is deliciously bad, having formed this persona after high school to ensure she never gets bullied again.

Bag ladies but in like, the best way

Special shout out to the true star of the film, little Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) who knocks her part out of the ballpark. She’s all sass and rocks her scenes, particularly in the classroom (her flirt-fest with her highly reluctant teacher – played by Justin Hartley – is a scream). And she’s never better than when she’s sticking up for her underdog new friends – who are also totally adorable.

This is a film about black girl magic, female friendship – and opening yourself up to the best things in life, like well, magic and female friendship.

And I appreciate it for that.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Party Girl

I’ve really been hankering after the 90’s lately, particularly after Captain Marvel and its outstanding soundtrack. If I could go back for a weekend with no consequence or effect on my present day life, I so would.

So, with this in mind, this week’s film is perfectly placed and I might be *am* #obsessed with the fashion, the whole aesthetic and our leading lady.

Party Girl (1995)

Mary is a free-spirited young woman with a run-down New York apartment and a high fashion wardrobe. She calls her godmother, a librarian, for bail money after being arrested for throwing an illegal party. To repay the loan, she begins working as a library clerk.

Starring: Parker Posey • Omar Townsend • Donna Mitchell • Liev Schreiber

*Minor spoilers*

Mary (Parker Posey) is your average NYC party girl. More or less unemployed with an insane designer wardrobe, moving from coolest club to cooler club and getting off with Liev Schreiber in the street. When she’s booked by New York’s finest for throwing an illegal party, she is forced to call upon her godmother Judy (Sasha von Scherler) to bail her out.

Judy – tough but fair – does it but she also lectures Mary on responsibility. To pay back the bail money she gives her goddaughter a job as a clerk at the library where she works. Mary is not stoked to be there and spends more time outside talking to the falafel vendor, Mustafa (Omar Townsend), who she digs.

When we meet Mary she has a boyfriend, Nigel (Schreiber) but he’s dumped when he admits he’s peed in Mary’s shower again. This frees up our free-spirited heroine to flirt with Mustafa, who is in competition with a rival vendor, on the same corner of the street. Mustafa reveals he used to be a teacher in Lebanon.

“I like you a falafel lot…”

For a while Mary gets by at the library but she’s still preoccupied by the party scene – and she doesn’t really get the filing system. One day Judy has enough and reams her out, telling her that even a monkey could have learnt how to file by now. These stinging words obviously get to Mary as she chooses to stay overnight at the library that night to get her head around the Dewey Decimal System, rather than going to da club, where her BFF Leo (Guillermo Díaz) has just got his first gig.

His new boss Rene (Donna Mitchell) is an absolute queen I have to say and hard as nails. My favourite side character by far.

“Book ’em, Danno.”

After this Mary becomes pretty fucking good at her job but Judy still won’t really trust her, citing the irresponsibility of Mary’s mother as one of the factors. Sounds fair.

Unfortunately, Mary fucks up one last time when she bones Mustafa in the library and some books get damaged. Judy fires her and she falls into a downward spiral, fighting with her new man, doing drugs and almost getting raped by Nasty Nigel. She and Leo are also evicted and the worst thing that could happen happens – she is forced to sell her wardrobe to stay afloat.

A mood

All this serves as a wake up call and Mary finally makes a decision about her future. But she needs Judy on board – is it too late to convince her?

PG is honestly very charming and also not nearly as fluffy as I was expecting. It’s all the more endearing for it too. Posey is dreamy at the best of times but as Mary, she manages to keep you invested at all times. Even when she’s in self-destruct mode.

I love the juxtaposition between both worlds – the frivolous and the responsible. I haven’t really much more to say about it other than I love the 90’s ballroom scene vibe, the spectacle and the attention to detail.

You better werk

Posey’s wardrobe isn’t just cute, it’s a work of art and an expression of the character. This is a cool article about some of the outfits she puts together.

In my mind I hope she becomes the most successful librarian in NYC but also remains prolific on the party scene. She shouldn’t have to give up one for the other if she doesn’t want to.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my favourite librarian think of Party Girl? Would she fire it unceremoniously or believe in her all the way? Find out here of course.

The Breaker Upperers

A little New Zealand banger this week and what a joy it is too. If it had been fifteen minutes long and just consisted of the last scene, I still would have been delighted with it. Continue reading

Whip It

Both Jill and I have been surprised by how lack-luster our choices have been so far this Feminist February, so I wanted to go for something I knew would be guaranteed fun. How can it not be with this cast? Plus, although I don’t always appreciate Ellen Page in her movies, I like her politics in the real world – so I chose this also because of that. Plus DREW BARRYMORE.

*Minor spoilers*

Whip It (2009)

Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a teenage misfit in the small town of Bodeen, Texas. Pushed into local pageant life by her former-beauty queen mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), she is expected to conform to certain ladylike ideals. When she rocks up to one of the competitions with blue hair, Brooke is suitably disappointed.

Bliss’ heart just isn’t really in it, you know? She feels stifled by small town life. Luckily she has a cool best friend in the shape of Pash (Alia Shawkat), who is all too willing to be roped into side adventures. The pair also work together at The Oink Joint where the specialty is something called “the Squealer”.

“This little piggy went to Austin, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy joined the derby…”

During a shopping trip with Brooke to Austin, Bliss sees a couple of derby girls handing out flyers. Under the guise of going to see a football game, she and Pash go back to Austin on their own to witness the derby for themselves. During the show the Holy Rollers defeat the Hurl Scouts and Bliss falls in love with the sport.

After the show she meets Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) who persuades her to come to the next team try out. Lying about her age, she does and – lo! – discovers she has natural agility on the rink. Unfortunately her skill also catches the attention of mean girl Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) who’s naturally threatened by this new kid on the block (I feel you girl). She also meets wannabe rock star Oliver (Landon Pigg) who quickly, and predictably becomes her love interest.

“What do you think of my big helmet?”

Bliss is forced to lie again when she tells Oliver she lives with roommates in Bodeen. The two quickly become an adorable couple but Bliss, now with the stage name Babe Ruthless, is heading for a fall. And exactly how long can she keep up this double life anyway?

Her parents think she’s signed up for extra SAT classes while Oliver thinks she’s an upwardly mobile badass of the world, something’s got to give, right? Well, when Maven gets her mitts on the truth, she has just the leverage to get Ruthless out of her life and off the team for good.

This is a lovely coming of age movie with a dream cast. Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is based on the novel Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. She also plays Smashley Simpson and is the most accident prone of the group. Support includes Eve as Rosa Sparks, Ari Graynor as Eva Destruction and Zoë Bell as Bloody Holly.

I’m supposed to buy you shoes from a… a head shop? Does that really strike you as responsible parenting? ~ Brooke Cavendar

My face every time I remember Juliette Lewis is a Scientologist

I really like this movie, which I have seen before. I was really happy to revisit it and I think what I enjoy most about it is the mother/daughter element. While Brooke projects her own issues onto her daughter, despite her obvious reluctance to be part of the pageant scene, it’s hard to watch. And when Brooke lashes out and disses the derby girls, despite their kindness towards Bliss, she’s lashing out at a different way to be a woman, one she just doesn’t understand.

This film does not rely on men, all the men are secondary, even Oliver who fucks up as soon as he goes on tour. He doesn’t break Bliss nor does he feature again once she’s burnt his jacket and told him she’s not going to be the girl hanging about waiting for him at home.

Scream if you love Drew Barrymore

The derby girls are fucking great. While Maven is outwardly hostile she eventually gets over herself enough to admit why Babe sticks in her craw so much. But everybody else is welcoming and supportive, sticking two fingers up at the notion that women should always be competing. Sure, they are on the rink but beyond that, it’s a different take on a real and loving family.

This is wonderful sisters doing it for themselves stuff, it’s about following a dream, even if it’s just a dream for now. It’s about getting smashed in the face multiple times and getting back up. It’s about understanding your own needs and going out there and nourishing them. And it’s about looking fucking cool in knee pads.

I’m inspired to be more me when I think about it, even at this ripe age and although my answers probably won’t be found on the end of a pair of skates, it’s nice to know there might be something out there for me too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my derby girl think of this one? Would she trip it violently or be on hand to patch it up, no questions asked? Find out here.

“I really liked you in Too Young To Die…”

Support the Girls

Feminist February continues with this Regina Hall-led movie about a Hooters-style sports bar and it’s staff and customers. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Support the Girls (2018)

Lisa (Hall) is general manager of a breastaurant called Double Whammies. Over the course of one patience-testing day, her eternal optimism’s challenged to the max.

Den mother to a collection of eccentric characters, including vivacious Maci (Haley Lu Richardson) and single-mother Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) – she is also deeply underappreciated by Whammie’s owner, Cubby (James Le Gros). Her boss is a racist pig-dog who doesn’t allow more than one African-American staff member on shift at any one time (or Latina, etc).

Despite continual threat of being fired, Lisa is dedicated to her job and to Whammies but more importantly to her girls, who she protects from inappropriate attention from the male patrons. She will do anything for them in fact, including raising money via a saucy car wash for one of the girls when she runs over her abusive boyfriend with her car.

Cubby is raging because a similarly-themed bar/restaurant called Mancave (pathetic) is just about to open round the corner. Positive-thinking Lisa tries to help him see that this could be a good thing but he’s not open to being swayed.

While Lisa handles Cubby and prepares Whammies for big game night – despite the fact that the cable is out and she’s in the midst of interviewing new recruits – she also has to take care of former employee Krista (!) (AJ Michalka), help struggling Danyelle and keep an eye out for Maci, who’s banging one of their much older customers. All this and her own relationship with husband Cameron which is strained to the point of trial separation.

When all this and more proves too much for our resilient girl, she decides to quit Whammies and go spend time with Cameron, despite the girls and the bar and all she’s put into it.

What will come of Lisa and her girls?

Well. I’ve been hearing good things about Support the Girls and it isn’t bad. It’s just not as fun as I expected it to be. It’s very low-key and real, like you’re sitting at a real bar listening to people with real issues and concerns.

It’s all about the women who work there and their respect for one another. Regina Hall is brilliant as always. Lisa is a lady who gets shit done while being continually shit upon by people (men) who should know better. To be honest I don’t really understand why Cubby is so down on her when she keeps the wheels of the bar so well oiled – because she is a woman and a WOC at that?

Most of the men aren’t that great. Lisa comes up against a rude biker patron who upsets one of her staff without hesitation (and police back up). Cubby obviously is an arse while Cameron has his own issues and seems unwilling to work at their marriage.

The movie is very quick to talk about fatness and that always puts me off. I can understand in an industry where looks matter so much being anything less that a perfect 10 could be a problem but I don’t want to hear it. It’s okay to be fat, you fuckers.

Anyway, the ending is empowered and testament to Lisa’s Whammies legacy. As the girls realise it’s going to be harder than they thought to get on without her, they take drastic action. And I love the cathartic closing scene very much.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my supportive girl think of this one? Would she throw a car wash for it or pull on a turtleneck instead? Find out here.

Mary Shelley

This movie would be a good contender for Feminist February so I’m almost pissed I didn’t save it. However, it was interesting to get an insight into the life of such an interesting writer, the creator of one of the most horrifying and also sympathetic horror characters of all time.

*Spoilers*

Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a 16-year-old woman with a penchant for horror. A writer whenever she can be, she is somewhat stifled by the responsibilities of home, by her step-mother (go figure) and by the death of her mother, a wanton hussy who left the family home to embark on a live-in threesome and then pegged it. Her father tends to take the side of his horrible wife, even against his own daughter and he also critiques her writing, telling her she has to find her own voice. Gee, I sure hope she does…!

Mary has a step-sister (I think) called Claire (Bel Powley) who adores her and there might be a younger brother somewhere in the background too. Mary’s step-mother Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt) is a professional shit-stirrer and many times I found myself shouting the C Word at the screen when she was on it. She ribs our girl about her mother’s slutty ways and this gets Mary temporarily ejected from the family home, sent away to stay with a cousin (?) in Ireland.

The cousin, Isabel Baxter (Maisie Williams) is fun and Mary begins to enjoy her life away from home and her family. Not least because here she meets the young poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), a serious charmer and all-round hot piece. As Mary and Shelley begin to nuture the spark between them, Mary is called home to deal with an emergency – the serious illness of her sister, Claire.

Mary returns home to find Claire has been faking her sickness just to get her sister home and I would have slapped her damn face for doing that to me. Mary is a little more understanding and able to handle it even better when Shelley appears on her doorstep, under the guise of being apprentice to Mary’s father, also a writer. The pair are able to pick up where they left off which is all well and good until Mary is approached by Shelley’s wife and young daughter in the street. Mrs Shelley tells her to stay away from her man or she’ll cut a bitch – and Mary denies all romantic interest in Shelley, which we all know is a goddamn lie.

Later, Shelley states that they are married in name only (that old chestnut) and that the marriage was nothing like what he’d signed up for. Mary is talked around quickly by Shelley because she wants to be but her family are outraged that Shelley would shirk his responsibilities to his wife and child so easily. Mary’s father tells her that if she sees him again then she is dead to him and – ooops – guess who she chooses?

When the time comes, Mary runs away and Claire begs her to go too. So the girls and Shelley disappear into their new life which lacks the grandeur both of them were expecting. It is free and sexy though and the girls are able to indulge their desires, e.g. drinking wine and shagging. Eventually the trio move to a house though things are still far from idyllic. Shelley is a struggling writer who has a deal but isn’t delivering the goods, they’re poor and struggling and then Mary falls pregnant. Added to this, the couple have a fight when Mary declines the sexual advances of one of Shelley’s buds. It becomes clear that Shelley has quite an open-mind when it comes to the topic of monogamy, while Mary is a one man kind of gal. They fight about who each of them believed the other to be and there is also a strong suggestion that Shelley is also schtupping Claire (though as far as I recall this is never confirmed).

Mary has the baby, Clara and all is well for a time until she passes away. Baby Clara is sickly anyway but during a mad dash from the home in the middle of the night (I think the trio are running away from creditors or the landlord), Clara catches a chill. I fully blame Shelley for this needless death and Mary’s subsequent grieving.

Claire begins shagging Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) who invites them all to his home for a fancy retreat and Mary meets a kind (and fit) doctor who seems to dig her. Shelley gets jealous about this chemistry and throws his weight about, or is this a delayed response to the news he receives that his wife has killed herself? Either way he’s a dick. Byron too is a shit to Claire who is up the duff with his child. The take home here is ditch the zeros and go your own way, girls.

During the course of the film we are given glimpses of Mary’s interest in science and while they’re staying with Byron, the group go to a TED Talk about bringing people back to life via a spooky looking machine. Following this, a seed is planting in Mary’s mind and a monster is born. You know to which ‘monster’ I refer.

Mary of course writes Frankenstein which is an exceptional work but is not taken seriously by the publisher on Mary’s return because you guessed it, she is a lowly woman and books by women do not sell. Also, the publisher dick implies that Shelley wrote it anyway. Lo! – Shelley in the end gets the credit for Mary’s masterpiece and she is so angry they split up.

Will he do the right thing in the end and will Mary reconcile with her father? More importantly will she gain the recognition she so richly deserves for her work? Well, most of us have picked up a copy of the book with her name on the cover so that one might be a no-brainer but it’s still nice to have an insight into how this comes about.

Well, I might not have paid particular attention to the details but I did enjoy this period piece. Elle Fanning is always a delight and I presume she does Mary Shelley justice. I don’t like any of the male figures, except maybe the kindly doctor and that’s the point. This is about Mary and her journey to liberation. It’s about being taken seriously as a member of the fairer sex and of staying true to her own principles. Mary holds her head high despite the reputation she gains from being with Shelley and the shadow of who her mother was and what she did.

I love the book Frankenstein and the themes it explores – I will be picking it up again soon.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my heroine think of this one? Would she keep this one reanimated or refuse to publish it? Find out here.

 

And Breathe Normally

Lesbians in Iceland! Sort of. Maybe not as cheerful as that, sadly. However, Free for All Month focusses itself this week on a subtle examination of poverty, homelessness and the search for asylum. It’s bleak AF frankly but kind of sort of beautiful.

And Breathe Normally (2018), or Andið eðlilega (original title)

Two women, Lára (Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir) and Adja (Babetida Sadjo) find their lives and troubles colliding in this slow but impactful film.

Lára, an apparent former addict and her son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson) are on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Things are shaky as we meet them but when the pair are evicted (along with their new rescue cat), they find themselves sleeping in the car and eating free supermarket samples for dinner.

Lára manages to dress this up as an adventure to Eldar who is remarkably chill for a kid and actually, is quite sweet. Lára isn’t jobless though, she’s a trainee Immigration Officer trying to become permanent and you get the impression there’s quite a lot of competition for a job like this. Accordingly she is very thorough, so when Adja comes through passport control on her way to North America with a dodgy passport, Lára clocks it – and so begins Adja’s personal hell.

Adja it turns out is seeking asylum from her country Guinea-Bissau and is travelling with her sister and young daughter, both of who get through security and arrive at their intended destination: Canada. When she is detained, Adja claims to be travelling alone and although Lára realises otherwise, she keeps schtum. Unfortunately for Lára, she is rewarded for her eagle-eyed skills by being permitted to sit in on the initial interview with Adja. Which is all kinds of awkward.

Adja is send to a half-way house with the threat of deportation hanging over her. The refugee center isn’t great and is filled with people in similar situations. Adja witnesses one of the tenants being forcibly removed by Immigration in the middle of the night and this understandably freaks her the fuck out.

One day by chance, the two women find their lives entwined once more. Adja meets Eldar when his cat runs away – and off the back of this Lára is forced to show her kindness. This is not something she lacks, it’s just that Lára is very conscious of the consequences her actions have had for Adja. Gradually though Adja twigs that the duo have their own issues and offers them shelter in her tiny, temporary room. She also offers to babysit Eldar while Lára goes to work. This is something that seems to bring her comfort in light of being separated from her daughter, who she can only chat to on the communal payphone.

Eldar and Adja bond and it is through this interaction that we get a little insight into Adja’s life. During a conversation with her legal support, we learn she is fleeing her country because of her sexuality. With Eldar she opens up about her ‘friendship’ with her lover, who seems not to be with us anymore. While there are hints of trauma in both the women’s lives, the film does not fully go in on them and somehow the simple suggestion of them feels worse.

In the end, a decision is made about Adja’s future and she is forced to consider some very drastic action. Luckily for her she now has a new friend to look out for her – and I’m sorry but the ending of this film made me feel all the feels. These women deserve better than the hands they were dealt and hopefully, they both finally get it.

While it is bleak and cold to look at (lots of frosty tarmac surrounding the airport Lára works in), the performances are great and it is a nice story. It’s proof that you never really know what other people are going through until they show you.

The men in this movie are mostly secondary, with the exception of Eldar and I like that. Lára’s bosses are largely unsmiling and authoritative, while Adja’s fellow (male) residents are portrayed (unfairly?) as people doing what they need to do to survive (e.g. wheeling n’ dealing). At one point Adja is approached and offered sex work. But this is about the struggle and these women find common ground in one another without the usual cliché of your typical odd-couple pairing.

“Get in bitch, we’re going shopping…”

Lára is also gay and our protagonists are not thrown together sexually for the titillation of the viewer and I’m here for that (I’m also here for titillation but you know what I mean). It’s no surprise that this was written and directed by a woman, Isold Uggadottir. In her hands it is a thoughtful study on immigration and more importantly, it humanises both sides of the coin. Refugees are people with lives and loves who don’t deserve the negativity they receive, particularly in the press (shock horror!) and Lára is a human being too, just trying to do the right fucking thing.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of And Breathe Normally? Would she deport it from her memory right away or help it escape its own nightmare? Find out here.